Albany, N.Y. - Antione Johnson scored a season-high 22 points and Chris Wyatt made two critical free throws with 5.3 seconds remaining to lead Albany to a 61-58 America East Conference victory over New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon at the Recreation and Convocation Center.
New Hampshire (2-11, AE 1-3) took a 56-52 lead with 3:05 remaining, as Ioannis Karalis put his team in front with a pair of free throws and Marcus Bullock hit a three-point field goal from the right corner. Albany (4-9, AE 1-2) rallied with seven consecutive points.
Johnson, a 6-foot-1 senior, did all the damage in that stretch. He started the run with a three-pointer from the top of the circle, gave his club the lead with two free throws, and then converted a driving layup with 53 seconds to play.
The Wildcats, who ended a five-game losing streak with a surprising 10-point victory over Maine three days ago, closed within 59-58, when Karalis, who had 11 points, connected on a left-handed layup in the lane off Griffin Walker's pass from the foul line.
Following an Albany turnover with 31.9 seconds left, New Hampshire worked for the final shot. However, Wyatt picked off Bullock's skip pass to the left sideline. The 6-foot-6 sophomore, after being immediately fouled with 5.3 seconds remaining, calmly sank two free throws. The Wildcats' Jeff Senulis missed a desperation three-pointer from the right wing at the end.
"I saw the fade screen, just stepped up to help, and got the steal," explained Wyatt, who has become his team's sixth man after missing nearly four games as a starter in December with a severely sprained ankle. "We put ourselves in a position to win, and I was glad I could help the team."
"It wasn't supposed to be a skip pass," New Hampshire coach Phil Rowe said. "But with pressure guys forget their roles. We didn't have quality possessions at the end, and Johnson made some big-time shots."
The teams played to a 30-30 halftime deadlock in a contest that was tight throughout with 13 lead changes and 10 ties. The Great Danes grabbed a 49-47 lead on pair of foul shots by freshman Jamar Wilson, who had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds. New Hampshire drew even at 51 apiece on a driving layup by Shejdie Childs, a freshman guard who had 12 points and seven assists.
"Their pressure bothered us," said Albany coach Will Brown, whose team faced a trapping, full-court defense for most of the second half.
"We're using a six-man rotation and some of our guys were exhausted. (Antione) Johnson is someone we rely upon at crunch time, and he didn't disappoint us."
The Wildcats' Senulis, who missed his last start with a back injury, had a team-high 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Wyatt finished with six points and a season-high seven rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench.